7 steps to success in leadership assessment

When it comes to the selection of leaders, choosing the right person is crucial to your business’ success. Whether you are recruiting or preparing a succession plan, learn how to find, assess & develop leaders in your organization to avoid making a poor decision.

How to assess leadership

Developing and implementing a leadership assessment process is key for organizations to identify leadership potential effectively. Follow these seven steps for success:

1. Really know the role

Before the leadership assessment process begins, it’s important that assessors have an in-depth grasp of the position. To accurately evaluate the extent to which a candidate fits the requirements of a leadership role, assessors need a deep understanding of multiple factors. These include:

  • The key objectives that the job holder will be expected to achieve
  • The timeline they will be given to deliver on these objectives
  • The day-to-day activities that they will undertake
  • The target audiences that they need to influence
  • The prevailing business culture in which they will operate
  • Plus other peripheral factors and sensitivities that could impact their success in the position.

While existing experience in an industry sector will always be a benefit for an assessor, nothing is as valuable as a constructive, well-directed briefing interview with the incumbent’s manager to really ‘get under the skin’ of a role. Carrying out a leadership assessment without this perspective is far from ideal.

2. Know the nuances of leadership levels

The key challenges faced by individuals at different leadership levels can vary significantly. Therefore, it is important that assessors really understand what differentiates effective performance across these tiers in order to make an accurate judgment on the candidate’s suitability. For example, while a business unit leader will typically be required to promote the talent agenda and create development opportunities for both individuals and teams, executive leaders need to look through a wider lens and embed a learning culture across the entire organization.

Furthermore, assessors need to understand and be able to articulate the transitional challenges that individuals often face when moving between the different levels of leadership. This will help them accurately evaluate an individual’s leadership potential and the likely support they will need from the business in the years ahead.

3. Be credible

The assessors used in your leadership assessment process should always be prepared to explain what qualifies them to make a decision on the future career of a high performing individual. To be taken seriously by senior candidates, assessors need a convincing and compelling story to tell that reassures their counterpart that they are dealing with a like-minded professional who can empathize with their challenges. A solid academic background is important, but should not be over-emphasized at the expense of hard-won business experience. Critically, the assessor should not give the impression of feeling defensive when explaining their credentials as this will immediately alter the dynamic of the leadership assessment process.

4. Be challenging

In most cases, the candidate will already hold a time-pressured, demanding role, so it’s important to remember they will have likely had to create time within their busy schedule to accommodate this assessment. If the leadership assessment process feels routine, generic, and straightforward, they may wonder why they bothered, and will most likely give that feedback to the employer. Strong candidates will expect to be tested, and will value the insight gained from a challenging experience. Be prepared to push them, though in a balanced way to avoid making it feel like an ordeal.

5. Bring insight that adds value

To justify the time and cost of developing and implementing a successful leadership assessment process, assessors need to bring something extra to the discussion. Specifically, they need to provide the employer with accurate and deep insight into what drives the individual and how their leadership style will play out in the position they are being considered for. A good assessor will not just describe an individual’s key strengths but will also explain how these can be best leveraged in the role to showcase their leadership potential. Equally, when covering any kind of development, assessors must be able to explain the extent of the risk, the likely impact if the development area is not addressed, and provide tangible and realistic suggestions to help the individual close the gap.

6. Prepare to provide meaningful feedback

In many cases, assessors will be expected to deliver feedback to the candidate a short while after the meeting takes place, and usually once the client team has received a thorough debrief. When delivering feedback to the candidate, it is critical that the assessor conveys a sense of honesty, accuracy, and relevance so that the individual feels that they have been treated fairly and that they’ve learned something from the entire leadership assessment process.

In many cases, it will be just as important for the candidate to not overuse an existing strength as it will be to close a development gap. Therefore, assessors must be well-versed in this area and able to explain to candidates how their leadership style could derail their progress if unchecked. When delivering particularly challenging feedback, assessors need to have the courage of their convictions and calmly provide evidence that supports their observations. Therefore, thorough preparation for these discussions is key.

7. Deliver on time

Given the importance of the role in question, the organization will often want to make a quick ‘Go/No go’ decision, particularly in recruitment situations where the candidate is known to be talking to other employers. Therefore, assessors must be prepared to commit to delivering their verbal feedback and subsequent assessment report in very short order after the assessment. Delaying these outputs can lead to a loss of momentum and give the impression of detached ambivalence to the client situation. If it is important that the outputs are reviewed by colleagues for quality assurance and calibration purposes before they are submitted to the client, make sure that colleagues are well informed of the situation and know when they need to play their part.

Enlist an expert for your next leadership assessment process

While there are no hard and fast rules that can be universally applied to leadership assessment processes, following the steps laid out above will help to ensure an insightful and high impact experience for all parties. Talogy’s expert consultants can provide an end-to-end leadership assessment process that includes online talent assessment tools designed specifically for use at senior levels. Reach out today to discover Talogy’s executive leadership solutions to help you confidently select and develop leaders in your organization.

Identifying and selecting high potentials

We are facing a talent war.

Great leaders are hard to find and even harder to retain in a competitive global economy.

Now more than ever, identifying, developing, and engaging high potentials is an important part of every successful organization’s talent strategy. They know that their culture is driven by their leaders and they also know that high performing leaders can be associated with all sorts of positive outcomes (e.g., increased retention of staff, higher employee engagement scores).

Download our whitepaper to find out:

  • What are indicators of potential?
  • How to identify and assess for potential
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